May a word be spoken on behalf of Kevin Spacey?

By David Walsh
1 November 2017

American actor Kevin Spacey is one of the most gifted and significant performers of his generation. He has been nominated more than 80 times for awards for acting in film, television and theater. Spacey has won over 50 awards, including two Academy Awards, a Tony Award and a Golden Globe Award. He has also been nominated for a Grammy Award, as well as eleven Primetime Emmy Awards.

Kevin Spacey

Born in 1959 into a lower middle-class family in South Orange, New Jersey and having grown up in southern California, Spacey attended the Julliard School from 1979-81. His first professional acting work was with the New York Shakespeare Festival, in a small part in Henry VI, Part 1, in 1981. His initial Broadway appearance came in Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, featuring Liv Ullmann, in 1982. He made his film debut in Mike Nichols’ Heartburn in 1986.

In one of his first substantial acting efforts, Spacey performed in director Jonathan Miller’s version of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1986, which starred Jack Lemmon. Spacey was to appear with Lemmon, whom he considered a mentor and to whom he became close, on a number of occasions. They both featured in The Murder of Mary Phagan (1988), a television miniseries about the infamous 1913 Leo Frank case, and the film version of David Mamet’s caustic play about the real estate trade, Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). In 1991, Spacey played famed lawyer and civil libertarian Clarence Darrow in a television movie (Darrow).

Spacey came to national and international prominence in the mid-1990s, in such films as Swimming with Sharks (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995) and Se7en (1995). By the time he received an Academy Award for Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999), the versatile Spacey had become one of the most recognizable American movie actors. He continued his film work into the new century, co-writing, co-producing, directing and starring in Beyond the Sea(2004), about singer Bobby Darin.

Spacey had meanwhile become involved in the theater in London. In 2003, he announced his plan to become the artistic director of the Old Vic, one of the city’s oldest theaters. He undertook to remain in the position for 10 years and to attract performers to the theater and appear in various productions.

True to his word, in 2005, for example, Spacey played the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard II, directed by Trevor Nunn. The following year he appeared at the Old Vic in O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten. Other plays in which he performed there included Inherit the Wind (Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee), Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, Maria Goos’ Cloaca, Shakespeare’s Richard III and a single-character play by David Rintels, Clarence Darrow. A new artistic director took over from Spacey in 2015.

In recent years, Spacey has made a new name for himself as Frank Underwood, the conniving and conspiratorial South Carolina politician, in the Netflix series, House of Cards (2013-17). Whatever Spacey’s own political illusions (he considers himself a friend of former president Bill Clinton), the Underwood character has done a good deal to undermine illusions in the corrupt, murderous world of Washington politics.

Spacey brings considerable intelligence and depth, combined often with irony and slyness, to both classical and popular genres. Is there any question but that film, television and theater would have been tangibly poorer without his presence over the past quarter-century?

Now, at least for the time being, Spacey’s career lies in ruins. On Sunday, actor Anthony Rapp, for reasons best known to himself, accused Spacey in an interview of making sexual advances to him some thirty years ago when he was 14 and Spacey was 26.

The accusation comes in the midst of escalating charges of sexual harassment and abuse set off by the allegations by numerous women against Harvey Weinstein and various others, including writer-director James Toback.

In his statement, Spacey said, “I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”

He continued, “As those closest to me know, in my life, I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic relationships with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

Not only is Spacey being denounced for his actions several decades ago, he is also being criticized for the decision to acknowledge his sexual orientation at the same time he apologized for the alleged offense.

With characteristic bravery, Netflix first announced that the sixth season of House of Cards, currently under production, would be its last, claiming that the cancellation had nothing to do with Spacey’s difficulties. On Tuesday Netflix and Media Rights Capital, the series’ production company, announced that filming on the sixth season itself had been suspended. Their press announcement explained that the suspension would last “until further notice” and that the two companies needed “time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.” They are no longer pretending that the allegation about Spacey is not causing the series’ hold-up.

The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced that it was withdrawing the special International Emmy Founders Award it was planning to bestow on Spacey at a ceremony November 20 “in light of recent events.” And more is undoubtedly to come.

The Old Vic was quick to throw Spacey to the wolves, issuing a statement indicating that “we are deeply dismayed to hear the allegations levied against Kevin Spacey… Inappropriate behaviour by anyone working at The Old Vic is completely unacceptable.”

The current public flogging of Spacey is as shameful as it is disgusting. The incident that allegedly occurred more than three decades ago should not have happened. Even if he is culpable of improper behavior, however, that in no way justifies the current vindictive, gleeful effort to rub him out, a campaign that a Frank Underwood might well have mapped out.

The universal piling on, sanctimonious commentary and hypocritical tweets (“Twitter slams Kevin Spacey,” according to Salon) are difficult to bear. In terms of the media, there is not much to choose from between fascistic Breitbart News, warming its hands over the allegations against gay or liberal and often Jewish Hollywood, and the New York Times, with its salacious and degenerate editors.

The Times writes approvingly of “those who might have supported him [but] were instead incensed by the implication that his sexuality was relevant to” Rapp’s accusations. “They saw his coming out story as an intentional distraction from the accusation and a damaging conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia.”

We live once again in an era of denunciations, which have the power to wreck lives overnight. And everyone is expected to chime in. Those who do not do so become suspect themselves and are liable to be denounced. Careers, status and wealth are on the line. The threat of being out of the limelight terrifies actors, directors and producers in the US perhaps more than anything.

In the official narrative, there is an almost complete absence of understanding and elementary sympathy. The accused is a criminal, a monster, who must be destroyed.

Hollywood is a competitive hothouse, where at the best of times a deeply subjective atmosphere prevails that is ripe for this sort of scandal. Now it’s payback time. Frankly, career disappointments, relationships that failed and a host of other frustrations and jealousies fuel the frenzy. Old scores of various sorts, including financial ones, are being settled, and new business arrangements formed in the midst of all this. The canny are sizing up how money is to be made under conditions of the “new morality.”

Sex scandals have invariably been the province of the far right. Nothing remotely progressive will come out of this. A revived Production Code, a clampdown on “licentiousness” in films and filmmaking (which is always accompanied by the suppression of oppositional views), more powers to the censors, appointed and self-appointed—this is what’s likely to emerge at the other end of this miserable process. The dominance of power and wealth, the source of the real abuses and crimes, goes untouched.

Once again it’s “scoundrel time.” The film world, it is clear now, has learned nothing from the McCarthyite period. The same essential modus operandi is at work: the naming of names, the guilt by association, witnesses who can’t be questioned, the right-wing forces who weigh in, the studios that instantly blacklist those accused.

This is already another shameful episode in Hollywood’s history. Later on, perhaps years from now, there will be expressions of regret (“Oh, yes, mistakes were made. There were unfortunate excesses”); Spacey may even be forgiven. Perhaps at a future Academy Awards ceremony he can come before an audience of the same people who drove him out, and exclaim through gritted teeth, like Charlie Chaplin at the 1972 Oscars, after his exile of twenty years, “You’re wonderful, sweet people.”

We argued when the Harvey Weinstein scandal erupted that this was not simply about Weinstein, that something else was going on, that something else was moving through this affair. Weinstein’s piggishness and wrongdoing were merely a pretext for the flourishing of all sorts of unhealthy, reactionary issues and pressures. The assault on Spacey is confirmation of that view.

We don’t make any bones about our sympathy with Kevin Spacey and our contempt for those inciting denunciations and urging on the witch-hunting hysteria.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/01/spac-n01.html

Unfair and unbalanced: Media defined Trump by his key issues — and Hillary Clinton by her phony scandals

Trump got his scary message out to voters, while Clinton’s issues got buried under an avalanche of email stories

Steve Bannon and his fellow travelers in right-wing media played us all for fools. While that’s never directly stated in a recent study of the role of media in the 2016 election, conducted by researchers from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, it’s the unavoidable conclusion after examining the results. The right-wing media ecosystem, epitomized by Bannon’s no-longer-former site Breitbart News, was not only able to colonize Republican voters’ minds but also to direct the focus of the mainstream media. The result was that Donald Trump got his political message out with great success, while Hillary Clinton was largely silenced, and defined for the public largely in terms of hysterical right-wing attacks.

In the mainstream media, “the coverage was negative for both candidates,” Yochai Benkler, one of the study authors, explained to Salon. “What became clear was that the conversation in the broader public sphere reflected the agenda that was set by the right,” he continued, “rather than an agenda that was set by Hillary Clinton.”

Simply by dint of being a loud-mouthed boor, Trump was able to dominate the media coverage so thoroughly that it’s a miracle that Clinton even got through, the researchers found.

Fig03

 

Even though most of the Trump coverage, like most of the Clinton coverage, was negative in tone, Trump was able to leverage the negativity to get his message in front of the voters. Even more important, his candidacy was largely defined by his primary issues, such as his hostility to immigration.

“When you say Trump makes a statement about a Muslim ban, that’s a statement about immigration,” Benkler said. That may get negative coverage, he argued, but it also helped educate voters who follow the mainstream media about his positions and views on the issue.

Coverage of Clinton, on the other hand, was largely substance-free and focused on overblown “scandals,” such as stories about leaked emails or stories highlighting donors to the Clinton Foundation. Her campaign’s efforts at creating a robust, progressive political platform were largely wasted on a mainstream media that was almost entirely uninterested in educating the public on her policy views.

The end result was that Trump’s policy positions on nearly all issues got more media attention than Clinton’s, even though the latter put time and effort into developing substantive views, while her opponent’s “policies” were mostly the result of him riffing off something he heard on Fox News.

 

Fig02

A number of Clinton’s critics argue, as Columbia professor Mark Lilla did in my recent interview with him for “Salon Talks,” that the Democrats in 2016 failed to “articulate a vision.” This arguments frustrates many Clinton supporters, who could point to the reams of policy ideas and political ideals she spent the campaign promoting. But it’s easy to see why some people might believe Clinton didn’t articulate or discuss a vision, when her efforts to do so were studiously ignored by mainstream media sources that were more interested in breathlessly covering the non-story about her private email server.

The extent to which Clinton was defined by these pseudo-scandals, while Trump was defined by his views, is illustrated by perhaps the most disheartening chart that the Harvard researchers created from their data.

Fig01

The gap between coverage of the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation is a crystalline example of how distorted the 2016 campaign coverage was. No one has ever found any evidence of Clinton misusing her powers as secretary of state to do favors for Clinton Foundation donors. In contrast, David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post found extensive evidence, including an admission on a tax form, that Trump used his foundation for dubious and possibly illegal self-dealing. Fahrenthold found that Trump used his foundation to buy personal items or to settle legal disputes, rather than for charitable purposes, which is the only legitimate use of foundation funds.

Fahrenthold won the Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of the Trump Foundation, but somehow the rumors and insinuations around the Clinton Foundation got far more coverage. This contrast reveals how well right-wing media was able to control and direct the public conversation about the 2016 campaign.

On one hand, conservative media “provides a shared internal narrative for Trump supporters that keeps them comfortable with the choice and gets them mobilized,” Benkler said. “On the other, it produces a steady flow of stories that end up sometimes — often enough, it seems — setting the agenda for mainstream coverage. It’s this dual effect, on one hand stabilizing and insulating your base from the mainstream, and on the other nudging the mainstream coverage to cover your issues, that was so successful.”

The Clinton Foundation stories largely stemmed from a book called “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” written by then-Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, who also co-founded a right-wing think tank called the Government Accountability Institute, with funding from hedge fund billionaire and Trump enthusiast Robert Mercer. Even though Schweizer had no real proof of corruption, he was able to get his insinuations about the Clinton Foundation covered heavily by The New York Times. After that, the story spread far and wide, from mainstream media to left-leaning sources read by Bernie Sanders supporters.

The Harvard report offers a much more thorough retelling, but the larger lesson here is chilling: Right-wing propaganda forces were able to define Clinton in the public eye, concealing what was without question a substantive policy agenda under a pile of nonsense about her emails and other supposed scandals. Trump, despite his deep and demonstrable corruption, was still able to get his message out — virtually everyone in the country knew what he stood for, whether they found it repulsive or refreshing.

As recent days have shown, many of the mainstream outlets worked as conduits for right wing propaganda, highlighting Trump’s policy message while burying Clinton’s, refuse to take responsibility for what happened. The first step in recovery is recognizing you have a problem. It’s hard to imagine how mainstream media journalists will do better the next time around if they can’t accept that their failures helped put Trump in the White House.

Nazis in the Trump White House

ftn-miller

13 February 2017

Viewers of the Sunday morning television interview programs were given their first long look yesterday at a top Trump aide, Stephen Miller, the so-called “chief policy adviser” at the White House. What the American public saw was repulsive. If Hollywood casters are looking for someone to play the role of an SS officer in the next World War II movie, they’ve got their man in Miller.

Miller appeared on Fox News, ABC, NBC and CBS. Eyes fixed straight ahead in a glassy stare, his replies to questions consisted exclusively of pre-programmed lies about the unlimited powers of the president in the areas of immigration and national security. He denounced the federal judges who halted the enforcement of Trump’s executive order banning all refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was compelled to point out that Miller was lying through his teeth, and challenged him to provide a shred of evidence for his claims of massive vote fraud depriving Trump of a majority of the popular vote. Even Fox News interviewer Chris Wallace seemed taken aback by the performance.

Asked directly why Trump was leveling personal attacks on judges, the media and even fellow Republicans, Miller employed the central demagogic theme of the Trump cabal to justify its assault on democratic rights. “Our position is that we are the ally of millions of hard-working forgotten men and women all across this country,” he declared, “and President Trump is their champion. That’s our coalition. Our coalition is millions and millions and millions of decent patriotic citizens who just want a pay raise, who just want a good school, who just want a safe community.”

This was said, in bullying tones, about a billionaire president who opposes even an increase in the minimum wage, let alone a genuine rise in the living standards of working people, and whose cabinet picks are pledged to destroy Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, public education, workplace safety regulations and all other forms of social protection for working people.

And who is this “chief policy adviser?”

Miller was profiled by both the New York Times and Washington Post on Sunday. The 31-year-old aide has been an ultra-right activist since his teens. Born into an upper-middle class liberal Jewish family, something went seriously wrong in Miller’s personal development.

He developed a fascination with the extreme right. At Duke University he found a friend in Richard Spencer, the anti-Semitic white supremacist neo-Nazi who has been promoted by Breitbart News. After college, Miller went on to become a spokesman for a series of ultra-right figures in Congress, including Representative Michelle Bachmann and Senator Jeff Sessions. Early in 2016, he joined the Trump campaign, eventually becoming the candidate’s chief speechwriter and a frequent warm-up act at Trump campaign rallies.

Miller is one of a trio of high-profile fascists in the White House. The ultra-right views of White House “chief strategist” Stephen K. Bannon have been widely publicized in the American media, from cover stories in weekly magazines to profiles in major daily newspapers. Bannon ran the ultra-right Breitbart News until last August and made it a focal point for so-called alt-right.

A New York Times profile published Sunday noted Bannon’s familiarity with the work of Julius Evola, an Italian racist and anti-Semite whose writings were a staple of Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship, and who has been cited as an inspirer of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Bannon cited Evola’s writings in a speech to a Vatican conference of right-wing Catholics in 2014.

A lesser-known but equally repugnant figure is Michael Anton, recently appointed as director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, making him the second-highest press spokesman for the White House after Sean Spicer. A former speechwriter for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Anton was a Bush White House aide, in which capacity he fervently backed the decision to invade Iraq. He moved on to communications positions with right-wing publisher (and owner of Fox News) Rupert Murdoch and with Citibank, and then a post as a managing director of the huge hedge fund BlackRock.

Last week, William Kristol, publisher of the neo-conservative journal Weekly Standard, revealed that Anton was the author, under a pseudonym, of a screed issued last September and widely circulated in right-wing circles titled The Flight 93 Election. This essay portrayed a Trump victory as the sole hope for the survival of America (and implicitly compared Hillary Clinton to the Al Qaeda hijackers of the doomed United Airlines flight on September 11, 2001).

Anton made an explicitly racist appeal for support for Trump, claiming that “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.” As a result, he warned, the 2016 election was the last chance for “my people,” i.e., white Americans.

This argument is so openly racist and authoritarian that Kristol, himself a longtime right-wing Republican operative and warmonger, compared Anton to the jurist Carl Schmitt, a notorious Nazi apologist.

The White House has over the past half-century provided employment for many unsavory and criminal types. But the Trump administration represents an entirely unprecedented descent into the lower depths. The presence of political filth like Bannon and Miller in positions of great power and influence in the White House signifies a terminal crisis of American democracy.

There have already been suggestions, from New York Times columnists Paul Krugman and Roger Cohen, among others, that the Trump administration plans to seize on the next terrorist incident as the justification for the abolition of democratic rights. Cohen even cited the precedent of the Reichstag Fire, the pretext manufactured by Hitler to impose emergency rule in Germany.

These columnists offer no explanation as to how this situation has arisen, let alone any proposal as to how the accelerating descent toward a police state can be stopped. As is typical of Democratic Party propagandists, they say nothing about the obvious connection between the breakdown of democracy and the socio-economic realities of contemporary capitalism.

The threat of dictatorship arises directly out of the oligarchic character of American society. Trump, Bannon, Miller and Anton did not emerge from a Munich beer hall, but from Wall Street and the corporate elite. Trump is a real estate and casino billionaire, with close ties to the media bosses. Bannon was a Goldman Sachs executive and his media venture, Breitbart, has been underwritten by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. Anton served Rupert Murdoch, then CitiBank, then BlackRock, the world’s largest hedge fund.

There is a growing movement against the Trump administration and its attacks on democratic rights and the social interests of the “bottom” 90 percent of society. This movement requires a clear political strategy and program. It must be anchored in the working class and armed with an uncompromising anti-capitalist and socialist perspective.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/02/13/pers-f13.html

‘America First’ Could Bring the World Closer to a Nuclear Holocaust

Posted on Feb 1, 2017

By Robert Reich / RobertReich.org

Before joining Trump’s inner circle, Steve Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet that has promoted conspiracy theories. (A.Davey / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Donald Trump has reorganized the National Security Council – elevating his chief political strategist Steve Bannon, and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bannon will join the NSC’s principals committee, the top inter-agency group advising the President on national security.

Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will now attend meetings only when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed,” according to the presidential memorandum issued Saturday.

Political strategists have never before participated in National Security Council principals meetings because the NSC is supposed to give presidents nonpartisan, factual advice.

But forget facts. Forget analysis. This is the Trump administration.

And what does Bannon have to bring to the table?

In case you forgot, before joining Donald Trump’s inner circle Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet that has promoted conspiracy theories and is a platform for the alt-right movement, which espouses white nationalism.

This is truly scary.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice calls the move “stone cold crazy.” Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under George W. Bush, says the demotions are a “big mistake.”

Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS News, “I am worried about the National Security Council. … The appointment of Mr. Bannon is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.” McCain added that the “one person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view.”

Here’s the big worry. Trump is unhinged and ignorant. Bannon is nuts and malicious. If not supervised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their decisions could endanger the world.

In Trump’s and Bannon’s view, foreign relations is a zero-sum game. If another nation gains, we lose. As Trump declared at his inaugural: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”

Some of you are old enough to recall John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, when the young president pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty.

But Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe, and no reference to liberty. As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer observes, Trump’s view is that all other nations are out to use, exploit and surpass us.

Not incidentally, “America First” was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich.

Trump’s and Bannon’s version of “America First” is no less dangerous. It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad, and risking everything we love about our country.

Unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing. Trump and Bannon could also bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/donald_trump_steve_bannon_america_first_world_nuclear_holocaust_20170201

The Trump-Bannon government: Rule by decree

download

30 January 2017

The Trump administration’s order to halt the admission of refugees into the United States and bar entry to visitors and returning residents from seven countries—all majority-Muslim, all the targets of US military aggression or economic sanctions—underscores the unprecedented nature of the new government.

This is a government that will not be constrained by laws or the Constitution. Notwithstanding the fact that Trump is a minority president, his administration intends to utilize its control over the state to the maximum, operating on the principle that “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” It has already established a pattern of rule by decree.

Without any congressional vote, without any judicial process or finding of guilt for any crime, more than 100 people have been detained by federal customs and immigration agents and in some cases deported. The victims include the elderly, small children, wives returning to their husbands and people who have lived in the United States legally for many years, even decades. Hundreds more have been barred from boarding flights bound for the United States. And this is the toll just of the first weekend. The potential victims number in the many thousands, even millions.

A series of federal judges have issued court orders barring the deportations, ruling that there is a great likelihood that those challenging the Trump-ordered actions will be upheld once their cases are fully adjudicated. While some individuals have been released from detention, federal officials claim that the White House order is still in force and will be carried out.

The actions of the government in its first ten days make all the more sinister the central role being played by Trump’s “chief strategist,” Stephen K. Bannon. The media has largely downplayed the fact that Trump named Bannon, former boss of Breitbart News, a sounding board for the white supremacists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis of the alt-right, to a White House position coequal with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

It was unmistakably Bannon’s voice sounding in Trump’s inaugural address, with its open embrace of the “America First” slogan first popularized by Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh in the early days of World War II. His speech followed the fascist model in appealing to genuine social grievances—the devastating decline in jobs and living standards in many industrial areas—while diverting popular anger away from the American capitalist elite and toward a politically useful scapegoat, in this case China, Mexico and other foreign countries.

Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs executive, Hollywood producer and ultra-right media mogul with no national security experience, is a fervent advocate of the racist and anti-immigrant stance expressed by Trump in a series of statements and executive orders last week, from the order to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, to a crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities,” to Friday’s ban on travelers and refugees.

Trump underlined Bannon’s central position in his White House with an executive order Saturday restructuring the National Security Council (NSC), the principal White House instrument for directing foreign and military policy. The order added “the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist,” namely Bannon, to the list of top officials entitled to attend every meeting of the Principals Committee, a subcommittee of the NSC that plays a critical role in preparing decisions for the president, and includes the national security adviser, the secretary of state and the secretary of defense.

The same order removed from the Principals Committee the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

There is one further action at the weekend that provides the most chilling insight into the mentality of Trump’s chief political adviser. The White House issued a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day that lamented the “innocent people” murdered by the Nazis, but made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism. A White House spokesman confirmed that the omission of Jews from the 117-word statement was deliberate and not a mistake.

This is a trope taken straight out of the playbook of the neo-Nazi alt-right: the Holocaust is emptied of its specific content, the attempted extermination of the Jewish population of Europe, and transformed into a generic tragedy in which many people were killed.

The Democratic Party will do nothing to oppose the march of the Trump administration towards authoritarian rule. The Democrats have devoted their efforts to playing down the extreme-right character of the new government while centering its criticisms on Trump’s conflict with US intelligence agencies.

After a transition period in which outgoing President Obama portrayed his successor as respectable and reasonable, and said nothing about his ties to ultra-right and neo-fascist elements, the first ten days of the Trump administration have seen Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders profess their desire to cooperate with the White House on its nationalistic economic policies.

It is significant that when challenged on what legal authority justified the ban on entry, Trump’s spokesmen cited the actions of the Obama administration, which designated the same seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—as those posing the greatest danger of terrorist attacks on the United States. This demonstrates that Trump is basing himself on the antidemocratic foundations laid by Bush and Obama and taking them to a qualitatively new level.

Trump also follows Bush and Obama in excluding from sanctions Saudi Arabia, home of nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers, but also a source of vast wealth for American big business from oil and gas as well as arms contracts. This confirms that the executive order has nothing to do with defending the American people from terrorism: its purpose is to intimidate working people, both immigrant and native-born, and pave the way for a frontal assault on the democratic rights of the American people as a whole.

The events of this weekend have demonstrated the hollowed-out character of American democracy. In its contempt for democratic and constitutional norms, the Trump administration gives naked expression to the oligarchic character of American society. His method of government is the form of rule appropriate to the social forces that his billionaire cabinet and the entire political establishment represent.

The decisive question is the independent intervention of the working class, fighting for its own class interests, including the defense of immigrant workers.

Patrick Martin

WSWS

History of the alt-right

The movement isn’t just Breitbart and white nationalists — it’s worse

The alt-right is likely to grow, gaining a firmer foothold in American politics

History of the alt-right: The movement isn't just Breitbart and white nationalists — it's worse

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

In recent months, far-right activists — which some have labeled the “alt-right” — have gone from being an obscure, largely online subculture to a player at the very center of American politics.

Long relegated to the cultural and political fringe, alt-right activists were among the most enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump. Earlier this year, Breitbart executive Steve Bannon declared the website “the platform for the alt-right.” By August, Bannon was appointed the CEO of the Trump campaign. In the wake of Trump’s victory, he’ll be joining Trump in the White House as a senior advisor.

I’ve spent years extensively researching the American far right, and the movement seems more energized than ever. To its critics, the alt-right is just a code term for white nationalism, a much-maligned ideology associated with neo-Nazis and Klansmen. The movement, however, is more nuanced, encompassing a much broader spectrum of right-wing activists and intellectuals.

How did the movement gain traction in recent years? And now that Trump has won, could the alt-right change the American political landscape?

Mainstreaming a movement

The alt-right includes white nationalists, but it also includes those who believe in libertarianism, men’s rights, cultural conservatism and populism.

Nonetheless, its origins can be traced to various American white nationalist movements that have endured for decades. These groups have historically been highly marginalized, with virtually no influence on the mainstream culture and certainly not over public policy. Some of the most radical elements have long advocated a revolutionary program.

Groups such as the Aryan Nations, White Aryan Resistance, the National Alliance and the World Church of the Creator have preached racial revolution against ZOG, or the “Zionist Occupation Government.” Many were inspired by the late William L. Pierce’s “Turner Diaries,” a novel about a race war that consumes America. (Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, had pages from the book in his possession when he was captured.)

But these exhortations didn’t resonate with most people. What’s more, after 9/11, many of the revolutionary right’s leading representatives were prosecuted under new anti-terrorism statutes and sent to prison. By the mid-2000s, the far right appeared to have reached its nadir.

Into this void stepped Richard Spencer and a new group of far-right intellectuals.

In 2008, conservative political philosopher Paul Gottfried was the first to use the term “alternative right,” describing it as a dissident far-right ideology that rejected mainstream conservatism. (Gottfried had previously coined the term “paleoconservative” in an effort to distance himself and like-minded intellectuals from neoconservatives, who had become the dominant force in the Republican Party.)

William Regnery II, a wealthy and reclusive, founded the National Policy Institute as a white nationalist think tank. A young and rising star of the far right, Spencer assumed leadership in 2011. A year earlier, he launched the website “Alternative Right” and became recognized as one of the most important, expressive leaders of the alt-right movement.

Around this time, Spencer popularized the term “cuckservative,” which has gained currency in the alt-right vernacular. In essence, a cuckservative is a conservative sellout who is first and foremost concerned about abstract principles such as the U.S. Constitution, free market economics and individual liberty.

The alt-right, on the other hand, is more concerned about concepts such as nation, race, civilization and culture. Spencer has worked hard to rebrand white nationalism as a legitimate political movement. Explicitly rejecting the notion of racial supremacy, Spencer calls for the creation of separate, racially exclusive homelands for white people.

Different factions

The primary issue for American white nationalists is immigration. They claim that high fertility rates for third-world immigrants and low fertility rates for white women will — if left unchecked — threaten the very existence of whites as a distinct race.

But even on the issue of demographic displacement, there’s disagreement in the white nationalist movement. The more genteel representatives of the white nationalism argue that these trends developed over time because whites have lost the temerity necessary to defend their racial group interests.

By contrast, the more conspiratorial segment of the movement implicates a deliberate Jewish-led plot to reduce whites to minority status. By doing so, Jews would render their historically most formidable “enemy” weak and minuscule — just another minority among many.

Emblematic of the latter view is Kevin MacDonald, a former psychology professor at the California State University at Long Beach. In a trilogy of books released in the mid- to late 1990s, he advanced an evolutionary theory to explain both Jewish and antisemitic collective behavior.

According to MacDonald, anti-Semitism emerged not so much out of perceived fantasies of Jewish malfeasance but because of genuine conflicts of interests between Jews and Gentiles. He’s argued that Jewish intellectuals, activists and leaders have sought to fragment Gentile societies along the lines of race, ethnicity and gender. Over the past decade and a half, his research has been circulated and celebrated in white nationalist online forums.

A growing media and internet presence

Cyberspace became one area where white nationalists could exercise some limited influence on the broader culture. The subversive, underground edges of the internet — which include forums like 4chan and 8chan — have allowed young white nationalists to anonymously share and post comments and images. Even on mainstream news sites such as USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times, white nationalists can troll the comments sections.

More important, new media outlets emerged online that began to challenge their mainstream competitors: Drudge Report, Infowars and, most notably, Breitbart News.

Founded by Andrew Breitbart in 2007, Breitbart News has sought to be a conservative outlet that influences both politics and culture. For Breitbart, conservatives didn’t adequately prioritize winning the culture wars — conceding on issues like immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness — which ultimately enabled the political left to dominate the public discourse on these topics.

As he noted in 2011, “politics really is downstream from culture.”

The candidacy of Donald Trump enabled a disparate collection of groups — which included white nationalists — to coalesce around one candidate. But given the movement’s ideological diversity, it would be a serious mischaracterization to label the alt-right as exclusively white nationalist.

Yes, Breitbart News has become popular with white nationalists. But the site has also unapologetically backed Israel. Since its inception, Jews — including Andrew Breitbart, Larry Solov, Alexander Marlow, Joel Pollak, Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos — have held leading positions in the organization. In fact, in recent months, Yiannopoulos, a self-described “half Jew” and practicing Catholic — who’s also a flamboyant homosexual with a penchant for black boyfriends — has emerged as the movement’s leading spokesman on college campuses (though he denies the alt-right characterization).

Furthermore, the issues that animate the movement — consternation over immigration, national economic decline and political correctness — existed long before Trump announced his candidacy. As political scientist Francis Fukuyama opined, the real question is not why this brand of populism emerged in 2016, but why it took so long to manifest.

Mobilized for the future?

The success of the Trump campaign demonstrated the potential influence of the alt-right in the coming years. At first blush, Trump’s victory in the Electoral College seems substantial. But his margin of victory in several key states was quite slim. For that reason, support from every quarter he received — including the alt-right — was vitally important.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that they were among his most avid foot soldiers in getting out the vote in both the primaries and general election. Moreover, the Trump campaign provided the opportunity for members of this movement to meet face to face.

Shortly after the election, Richard Spencer said that Trump’s victory was “the first step, the first stage towards identity politics for white people.” To some observers, Bannon’s appointment as Trump’s chief strategist confirms fears that the far-right fringe has penetrated the White House.

But if Trump fails to deliver on his most emphatic campaign promises — such as building the wall — the alt-right might become disillusioned with him, just like the progressives who chastised Barack Obama for continuing to prosecute wars in the Middle East.

Unlike old-school white nationalist movements, the alt-right has endeavored to create a self-sustaining counterculture, which includes a distinct vernacular, memes, symbols and a number of blogs and alternative media outlets.

Now that it has been mobilized and demonstrated its relevance (just look at the number of articles written about the movement, which further publicizes it), the alt-right is likely to grow, gaining a firmer foothold in American politics.

The Conversation

George Michael is a professor of criminal justice at Westfield State University.

http://www.salon.com/2016/11/24/history-of-the-alt-right-the-movement-is-not-just-breitbart-and-white-nationalists-it-is-worse_partner/?source=newsletter

Trump’s authoritarian government of nationalism and war

donald_trump_rnc_h_2016

21 November 2016

The Democratic Party and the media are doing everything they can to normalize the transfer of political power to Donald Trump, even as his initial appointments confirm the extreme and historically unprecedented character of the administration he will head.

For attorney general, Trump has tapped Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, long known for his opposition to civil rights and his support for the most invasive forms of government spying, beyond even those backed by the intelligence agencies. He has called for an expansion of police militarization and fiercely denounced immigrants, once declaring that “almost no one from the Dominican Republic” is coming to the US with “a provable skill that would benefit us.”

For CIA director, Trump is proposing Representative Mike Pompeo, another advocate of unconstitutional spying programs, who said earlier this year that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should be prosecuted, convicted and executed.

For national security advisor, Trump has selected retired general Michael Flynn, a fanatic anti-Islamic militarist who supports the removal of nominal restrictions on torture, saying he believes “in leaving as many options on the table right up until the last possible moment.”

Other choices will follow a similar pattern. Reportedly, the top contender for secretary of defense is retired Marine General James Mattis, who led the brutal onslaught against Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 and notoriously declared a year later that “it’s fun to shoot some people.”

Most significant, however, is the central role of Trump’s new “chief strategist” Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, who has been hailed by the white nationalist organizations that surround the so-called alt-right (which have also praised the selection of Sessions).

Bannon will play the central role in crafting the overall political agenda of the new administration. In an interview published Friday by Hollywood Reporter, Bannon outlines a policy of economic and political nationalism, with fascistic overtones.

“I’m not a white nationalist,” Bannon states, “I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist.” He denounces the “globalists”—a term popular among the alt-right to refer to anyone who does not support restrictions on trade and the movement of peoples—for having “gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia.”

Bannon’s aim, he says, is to “build an entirely new political movement” based on this nationalist economic policy combined with debt-fueled infrastructure spending. He declares, “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything… We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution—conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

This is a type of language that has not been heard before at the summit of American power. While Trump, Bannon and others seek to couch their program in populist language, exploiting the widespread hostility to the Democratic Party and the identity politics of privileged sections of the upper-middle class, the program of economic nationalism is one of brutal class warfare.

Domestically, it means the suppression of all class struggle in the interests of the “nation” and “national security.” Internationally, it means resort to war, both to divert social tensions at home and to subordinate the United States’ principal competitors in Europe and Asia to the interests of the American ruling class. The new administration will be dominated by the military-intelligence-police apparatus, acting as the violent instrument of Wall Street and the financial aristocracy.

No less significant than the character of the incoming Trump administration is the response of the Democratic Party. With extraordinary speed—within just two weeks—the Democrats have moved from hysterical warnings that a Trump victory would be a catastrophe for the country to assurances that they will support the incoming administration and work with it on key elements of policy.

Trump’s initial cabinet appointments have coincided with the election of Charles Schumer as the Democratic Senate minority leader. Of all Democrats in the Senate, Schumer is perhaps the closest to Wall Street and the most fervent advocate of trade war measures, particularly against China.

Schumer has elevated Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to a leadership role in the Senate. During the presidential election campaign, Sanders worked to channel oppositional sentiment of a left-wing and anti-capitalist character behind Hillary Clinton, the candidate of war and Wall Street. As the WSWS noted, his nationalist economic program closely paralleled that of Donald Trump.

In interviews over the weekend, both Schumer and Sanders declared that they hoped Trump would “work with us” on issues of “trade” and “infrastructure.” Sanders said Americans were “sick and tired of seeing their jobs go to China and other low-wage countries.”

The Democrats are proposing an alliance with Trump on economic proposals that are being spearheaded by Trump’s fascistic chief strategist, Bannon.

American presidential elections are characterized by all manner of lies, mudslinging and rhetoric, behind which various tactical divisions and conflicts within the ruling elite are fought out. It is in this way that the ultimate policy and trajectory of the ruling class asserts itself.

The coming period will be one of immense shocks and political upheavals. Trump’s economic policies, financed by ever greater levels of debt, combined with massive tax cuts for the rich and cuts in social programs, will produce economic chaos and class conflict. They will not resolve the intractable contradictions of American and world capitalism.

Moreover, while Trump could exploit social grievances during the election campaign and benefited from the collapse in voter turnout for Clinton, the program he is planning on implementing does not have mass support.

In preparing for the struggles to come, the basic political task is the organization and mobilization of the working class as an independent political force. This requires a complete and decisive break with the Democratic Party and all of the organizations that operate in its orbit. It is only in this way that the working class can advance a socialist, internationalist and revolutionary opposition to the economic nationalism, authoritarianism and militarism of a Trump administration.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/21/pers-n21.html